Florida football recruiting: Dan Mullen breaks down National Signing Day successes

By Drew Laing
December 19, 2018
Florida football recruiting: Dan Mullen breaks down National Signing Day successes

Image Credit: @UFGatorBand / Twitter

The early National Signing Day was an eventful one for the Florida Gators, which secured 20 signees for their Class of 2019 and saw no decommitments over the course of the day. In his press conference on Wednesday evening, head coach Dan Mullen praised the work of his staff.

“Everybody [on the staff] put in an unbelievable effort,” Mullen said. “And I think you see that with some of the success today in the recruiting class.”

The Gators’ 2019 recruiting class currently ranks No. 16 nationally, according to the 247Sports Composite team rankings; the group is No. 6 in the SEC with 13 four-star recruits and eight three-star recruits. Florida is also one of four teams in the top 16 that has not secured a commitment from a five-star recruit, which it has not done since 2014 — the last time it had a top-10 overall class by the time the final National Signing Day concluded.

“I don’t know if there were a lot of surprises, but that’s kind of what you look for,” Mullen said. “I thought it was a pretty solid day. I still think there’s additions we are going to make to this class.”

Wednesday’s announcements did play out as expected. The Gators failed to land any surprising prospects, such as five-star running back Trey Sanders (committed to Alabama), four-star defensive lineman Siak Ika (committed to LSU) and four-star defensive lineman Derick Hunter (committed to Texas A&M).

Mullen wanted to reassure fans to not get caught up in the excitement of the early National Signing Day, and that ultimately, this class will feature even more talent come February.

“With the two signing days, I think everybody gets so excited about today,” Mullen said. “We’re partially there. There’s still additions to be made to this class moving forward.”

Mullen used his 2011 recruiting class at Mississippi State to prove how successful a group of players can be at the college level, even without the notoriety of a class full of elite high school recruits.

“It was one of the lowest ranked recruiting classes I signed in my career,” Mullen said of his 2011 class. “I signed this quarterback no one had heard of in Dak Prescott, this two-star running back Josh Robinson, and this Preston Smith kid. That’s a group that went on to be the No. 1 team in the country for half the season and have a lot of NFL players on that roster.”

One of the areas of focus for Mullen since arriving in Gainesville, Florida, last year has been the line of scrimmage, and specifically, the offensive line. In total, Mullen has signed 11 offensive linemen over the last two years.

“If you have a great foundation around the offensive and defensive lines, it’s pretty easy to build a program around that. If you look at successful teams, they can control the line of scrimmage,” he said.

The Gators’ 2019 class currently features four four-star offensive line recruits, and Mullen is keeping the bar high for all of his offensive line prospects moving forward, considering the exodus the Gators will see from that position in the next season or two.

“We’re going to need some of them to play right away [on the offensive line]. We’re hoping to get most of them in early,” he said.

On the other side of the line of scrimmage, Mullen was only able to sign one defensive line prospect in Jaelin Humphries (Lawrenceville, GA). However, the 6-foot-3, 303-pound recruit has Mullen excited for what that means not only at that position, but what recruits like Humphries can bring to an entire program.

“He’s a big, physical and athletic guy on the defensive line,” Mullen said. “That’s a big position we’re not finished recruiting yet. Like I said, you have to have a great foundation along the line of scrimmage. I don’t ever put numbers on stuff. We’re going to look at guys that we think fit in our program, so we’re not going to put numbers on it,” he added. “I’m not going to force someone in who doesn’t fit with our program just to fill a number.”

Despite the low number of defensive line recruits at this point for the 2019 class, Mullen believes the opportunity to play early will help he and his staff when talking with the 2019 recruits who are waiting until National Signing Day on Feb. 6 to make their college decision.

“I imagine a lot of guys waiting until the second signing period are going to be looking at the depth charts and what the opportunity is to play at that specific school. I think that part of it makes it easier to focus our attention on them and for them on us,” Mullen said.

One of the 2019 recruits who arguably received the most praise from Mullen during his press conference was three-star wide receiver Ja’markis Weston (Clewiston, FL). The 6-foot-3, 205-pound receiver was outside the top 500 recruits nationally, but Mullen is expecting big things Weston.

“I’m a huge Ja’markis Weston fan. What’s his ranking?” Mullen asked a reporter, who replied that it was pretty low (actually 590th). “Good. We’ll see.”

According to Mullen, Weston brings everything you’d want in a recruit to a program — both on and off the field.

“He’s a tremendous young man. I think he has great potential, athleticism and size. But most importantly, he has amazing character,” Mullen said of Weston. “Academically, he takes care of his business. You walk around the school and hear about how people talk about him and how he’s respected. It’s pretty special. How he handled the whole recruiting process was first-class. He’s got a first-class brand. I’m really happy to have him as a part of this family and I think he has the potential to have a pretty special career moving forward.”

With Feb. 6 still a long ways away and just 20 recruits signed in the 2019 class (with one more verbally committed), there is definitely still room for Mullen and the rest of his staff to move up the rankings by the end of this recruiting cycle.

Chris Steele (42)
Kaiir Elam (48)
Khris Bogle (71)
Tyron Hopper (88)
Keon Zipperer (104)
Moh. Diabate (109)
Arjei Henderson (140)
Diwun Black (151)
Dey. Hammond (242)
Lloyd Summerall (243)
Nay'Quan Wright (261)
Jae. Humphries (264)
Michael Tarquin (277)
Jaydon Hill
William Harrod
Jalon Jones
Wardrick Wilson
Chester Kimbrough
Riley Simonds
Ja'markis Weston
Ethan White
Kingsley Eguakun
Jesiah Pierre
Trent Whittemore
Dionte Marks

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